Question Two: What's worked about ICANN, what hasn't?greenspun.com : LUSENET : IS99 Project : One Thread
ICANN is holding its first annual meeting this week. What, in your view, has worked best about ICANN? What has worked least?
-- Dialogic (email@example.com), December 07, 1999
What has worked best about ICANN? From the point of view of those who want to extend trademark law without the benefit of action by national legislatures, ICANN has been the best thing since the Louix XIV.
In a less flippant vein - I personally believe that other than the work of the membership advisory committee, ICANN has done essentially nothing that is positive in its year+ of existance.
What has worked least? From the point of view of public participation in decisionmaking, ICANN has been an utter failure. ICANN's processes are highly exclusionary - those who are the prime targets of ICANNs policies are not permitted any meaningful role in the definition of those policies. The nearly absolute exclusion of individuals and the massive dilution of non-commercial interests has placed ICANN firmly in the hands of those who want the internet to be essentially a vehicle for commerce by large corporations.
In addition, ICANN's adherence to its own procedures, its bylaws and its articles of incorporation has been a nothing less than an unprincipled joke. Look at how ICANN physically ejected legitimate parties from various meetings and then amended the bylaws months later to retroactively justify their actions. Look at how ICANN entered into the NSI/ICANN/NTIA agreements in direct violation of Bylaw Article VI Section 2(c). Look how ICANN has fabricated "consensus" to justify its actions without ever being able (or willing) to provide evidence that such consensus exists. Look to the gerrymandered "elections" that were held to fill the new board seats. etc, etc.
Overall, if ICANN were to be dismantled and we started all over again, we would not be any worse off. Indeed, I believe that such a "system reset" would be a good thing as it would serve notice that the shenanigans that have occured under ICANN's banner will not be tolerated.
I might add that if for no other reason, ICANN's existance should be placed into suspended animation until NTIA can clearly show that it has the authority to act as it has done. One of the most grievious failures of the last 24 months is not ICANN itself, the the failure of the Federal government to act as a government of limited, enumerated, and delegated powers - we have seen government expansion in its most overt and unchecked form. And we have seen the failure of Congress to have any meaningful reaction when NTIA flaunted its self-proclaimed powers over these matters.
-- Karl Auerbach (firstname.lastname@example.org\), December 08, 1999.
i agree that ICANN's internal contradictions threaten its long term survival prospects. to a very high degree, ICANN must change to embrace the notion of "consensus" if it is to fend of the attacks by its [vociferous] critics and gain wider acceptance. instituting a mechanism to ensure that minority/abstract but relevant opinions are not just considered but also incorporated into policy making/decisions is one method. more importantly, ICANN must distance itself as far as possible from the view that it is "in thrall" to the larger, commercial/net interests, as well as (what surely rankles the foreign observers) as being perceived as a U.S. interests-controlled enitity. to the extent that ICANN "can" create the impression that it is "non-partisan," then it will succeed in its mission to administer [sic] the net via consensus to the satisfaction of most stakeholders.
-- Marc Luoma (Marc_Luoma/FS/KSG@ksg.harvard.edu), December 08, 1999.
Worked best: generally speaking, the work the Berkman Center has put into providing Internet access to the meetings. Also, the online (email) participation from some members of the board. Consideration of an at-large membership has been a good thing imho, even though it is not fully formed yet.
Worked least: some board members do not participate in online email discussions; some discussions ultimately degenerate into flames; some issues seem intrinsically volatile and thus it's never possible to approach them academically (e.g. the latest thread about the CORE vs. IODesign .web TLD).
-- Greg Skinner (email@example.com), December 08, 1999.
I wish I had time this week to give you a more complete explanation, but since I don't, let me give you a short list.
* What's worked best?
To date, ICANN has achieved a certain amount of "buy in" to its mission. That's very important. The agreements with NSI and the satisfaction of registrar concerns at the LA meeting were a major success. ICANN has also achieved "buy in" for the concept of competition at the registrar level. ICANN's implementation of the registrar accreditation scheme and the SRS appears, from the outside, to have been a success.
Although still in the awkward toddler stage, the Supporting Organizations are up and running. The "Advisory Committee" concept also has proven an effective tool for completing work, as both the MAC and the IRAC completed difficult jobs in a short amount of time.
The partnership with the Berkman Center has worked very well, as webcasting and the recent pre-meeting workshop in LA have proven to be invaluable tools.
* What's worked least?
In many respects, ICANN is still not as open and transparent as many would like. Opening the quarterly Board meetings has been a step in the right direction. I've personally been disappointed that only a handful of ICANN Board members and staff (Esther, Mike, Joe, Louis, Andrew, Greg Crew, George Conrades, for example) have openly engaged the community on mailing lists, e-mail, etc. I think this is more a function of the individuals involved though, and I expect and already see that the elected Board members are more comfortable in this electronic forum.
The drafting and implementation of the UDRP was not the model for how policy should be made in a consensus organization. It was rushed through a Working Group of the DNSO. The Working Group had a closed membership and Chairs who had strong opinions on what the UDRP should do and look like. It was approved as a "consensus" policy by the DNSO's Names Council, even though there was substantial dissent within the DNSO community. At the Santiago meeting, ICANN took steps to correct that and tasked a small group to make modifications. But that group worked independently and without consultation with the community. Regardless of whether the UDRP itself is acceptable, the process was a mistake and should not be repeated. Necessity or urgency should not be valid excuses for such a flawed procedure.
We need a better definition of ICANN's scope. Yes, we know it's names, numbers, and protocols, but we can't turn a blind eye to the fact that some members of the community would like to move ICANN into a vehicle for public policy. I think if you definitively define ICANN's scope and adopt a real means for stopping ultra vires policies, many of the current participants will go home. This is not an academic concern. ICANN will have to confront this soon, as the DNSO is moving forward on a proposal for the protection of "famous names." As you probably know, the protection of "famous names" in U.S. trademark law is a (relatively) recent development. It has not been adopted widely around the world. For ICANN to force this concept on the rest of the world would be, I believe, beyond its scope.
Individual domain name owners still are not effectively represented in ICANN or the DNSO. It's taken much too much effort to convince existing DNSO constituency groups to open their memberships to qualifying individuals, and by the time that they did, elected officials and secretariats were already in place. ICANN could have made this process much easier by requiring the constituencies to open their memberships when the membership applications were reviewed and approved in Berlin. The fact that ICANN approved them as they were submitted led to the "IDNO" and the conversion of the DNSO's General Assembly into a forum for the disenfranchised. I personally believe that there are many talented, interested individual domain name owners and users who want to contribute to this process. To date, much of the process and structure has disenfranchised them. Correcting this at this late stage is a challenge.
ICANN has not made the best use of the Internet for conducting its business. The mailing lists are a major disaster and the ICANN web site "comments" page is not designed in a way to allow ideas to grow and build upon one another. I wish I had a ready solution for this. Maybe another advisory committee tasked with examining how to better use the Internet for online meetings and decision-making?
* * * * *
Okay, that's longer than I intended. Hope it is helpful.
-- Bret A. Fausett (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 08, 1999.
Generally speaking, I agree with your comments on what's worked best and least about ICANN. Regarding ICANN's scope, it is difficult to speculate on what it might be in the future, what powers its members might ask it to exercise over other aspects of the Internet, etc.
A lot of the controversy about domain names revolves around the importance that (particular) names are to effective Internet communication. Perhaps there should be some kind of study of the extent to which a particular domain name is effective under certain circumstances. For example, it has been argued that many personal domain names could be registered within the ccTLD (.us in particular). A study could determine the extent to which any rights or privileges of Internet communication are lost if one does not get a SLD of one's choosing.
-- Greg Skinner (email@example.com), December 08, 1999.
I attended ICANN/LA last week.
The most striking thing about it was the self-organization displayed by the registrars in voicing their demads for changes in the NSI/DOC/ICANN agreement. Entities who were not a direct party to the agreement, but nevertheless subject to it, successfully pressed for changes. ICANN's structure was open enough to facilitate this, its Board and staff responsive enough to push for the change, and NSI was smart enough to avoid further blockage of the stated will of the community. It was the first time I heard so many diverse voices in the Internet community saying, essentially, "You're our ICANN. Do this for us."
The greatest shortcoming involves outreach (shortage of GA membership, press coverage, webcast interest, etc.), but undertandable, since the DNS controversy is tedious and turgid, and only going to get worse.
-- Craig Simon (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 08, 1999.
What's worked best about ICANN: The Address Supporting Organization. Given the pre-existing structure of the Regional Internet Registries, it was a simple matter for the addressing community to come together in the ASO. Having done so, though, they've operated with little muss or fuss, and elected three top-notch Directors to the Board: The ASO directors are highly well-respected folk, with long-term and extensive Internet technical experience.
What's worked least about ICANN: The Domain Name Supporting Organization. This was an experiment in self-organization for a ommunity that had no pre-existing structure or coherence. It didn't work. The constituency structure (giving equal votes to official representatives of  ccTLDs;  businesses;  trademark interests;  ISPs and backbone providers;  nonprofit organizations; and  .com/.net/.org registrars, and giving 1/3 of a vote to NSI), in no way mirrors the domain name community. It simply parcels out seats at the table to those interests who were politically powerful enough to get them when the structure was drawn up. There's no reason why each of these groups should have equal votes (much less, I suppose, why business/trademark interests should have double votes). The Names Council illustrates the Peter Principle in action (in any hierarchical structure, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence). It has rather more than its share of hangers-on and hired guns, and nearly everyone involved sees his role as representation of his constituency's narrow economic interests. Unfortunately, the structure is now too well-established to junk.
-- Jonathan Weinberg (email@example.com), December 08, 1999.
my $.02: ICANN has stirred up a lot of interest and debate about the future direction and workings of the internet. if you believe in participatory democracy and policy making (governing) by "consensus" then that's good news. what has not worked well is the inclusion (yet) of any formalized structure within the organization to provide a capability to sift thru this debate/interest to glean out the nuggets to include in its policy making deliberations, to at least give outside observers the appearance that the process is fair and balanced. the impression that ICANN is sucking up to the large, multinational corporations by favoring them in instances of copyright/domain name disputes reinforces the negative "mindshare" conception of ICANN as unfair and biased.
-- Marc Luoma (Marc_Luoma/FS/KSG@ksg.harvard.edu), December 08, 1999.
The very creation and survival of ICANN is special. It was not clear that it would ever be established sufficiently to have people engage in the creation of the entity rather than aim at destroying it at the start. Also, the sincerity of the board's members in working through the maze of questions has helped. What has worked least is the (i) resistence to letting go of total control, such as self perpetuating board of director (ii) expression by some close associates of ICANN of deep distrust, hostility and lack of respect for outsiders; (iii) the inability to live with some uncertainty, driving to uniformity and central control. These, and especially the last item, which may also threaten innovations, may threaten the continued existence of ICANN.
-- Tamar Frankel (firstname.lastname@example.org@acs-mail.bu.edu), December 08, 1999.
This is a vague statement.
Of the original board, nobody ever questioned their sincerity. However, there are clear questions about whether they ever spent any time examining the issues or simply responded to pablum from "staff".
The issues before the board were not clearly black and white and the lack of questions from the board indicates a lack of thought and consideration by the board members.
Similarly the points made in comments to ICANN were not always lucid or unambiguous. The utter lack of requests for clarifications and follow-up from "staff" were indicative that "staff" never read the comments or, rather, disposed of them in a cursory manner.
As for the point about ICANN's survival. If it can't take the heat, it ought to be allowed to melt down and be re-cast using better quality materials.
ICANN has itself engendered much of its criticism. ICANN has from the outset chosen to act as a secret, opaque, non-responsive, and non-accountable body. Such were the explicit choices of the ICANN board.
Similarly, ICANN's selection of executives and spokesman/attornies was their own choice. The fact that those people were not not muzzled or reprimanded when they insulted critics or fabricated claims of "consensus" is ICANN's own choice.
It has been ICANN's own choice to make its bylaws merely advisory rather than binding.
It has been ICANN's own choice to proclaim results and issue obviously fabricated claims of consensus.
When the IANA==>ICANN proposals were being floated about last year, the IANA team alienated a significant body of participants in these debates by exactly the same kinds of "methods".
So let's not cry for ICANN; its failures are based on its own intentional, knowning actions and choices.
> What has worked least is the (i) resistance to letting go of total control, > such as self perpetuating board of director (ii) expression by some close > associates of ICANN of deep distrust, hostility and lack of respect for > outsiders; (iii) the inability to live with some uncertainty, driving to > uniformity and central control. These, and especially the last item, which > may also threaten innovations, may threaten the continued existence of > ICANN.
I agree with these thoughts - ICANN has a siege mentality and a xenophobic personality.
But I'd go further and say that the prejudiced and biased nature of the recent NSI/NTIA/ICANN agreements, the UDRP, and the registrar agreements have moved ICANN's flaws beyond the mere procedural into the substantive. ICANN is now starting to actually hurt people and corporations.
-- Karl Auerbach (email@example.com), December 08, 1999.